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Sunday, October 10, 2004

News - StatesmanJournal.com-

53 hours with G Troop

ANDREA J. WRIGHT / Statesman Journal

G Troop 1st Lt. Brian Rogers directs a convoy training exercise.


Learning the lessons of war at Fort Bliss

Statesman Journal
October 10, 2004

DONA ANA BASE, New Mexico — For three months, this desert plain has been home to about 150 members of G Troop, 82nd Cavalry — the latest Oregon National Guard unit called to duty in Iraq.

The Redmond, Ore., unit trained at Fort Bliss as part of the Idaho-based 116th Brigade Combat Team, a unit of a few thousand troops from the Pacific Northwest.

They are expected to be serving in Iraq by late fall.

This is first part of an hour-by-hour look at the lives of the soldiers of G Troop of the

Oregon National Guard.

1300 hours

14 September

The sun is high and the temperature approaches 100 degrees as the gated-flatbed truck rumbles down a dusty road.

The dirt road is rutted and bumpy. Four soldiers line each side of the truck with one arm holding the rail and the other holding an M-4 rifle ready for use.

The platoons of G Troop are rolling through one of the many ranges on this Army training ground just north of El Paso and the Texas state line.

Sgt. Theron Roe of Monmouth holds the .240-caliber big gun. Also on the truck is Spc. Michael Beach of Albany, who is preparing for his first war. Staff Sgt. Randy Stratton, 51, a Vietnam veteran from Prineville, is poised for his second. Three members of the Utah National Guard also are on board.

Abrupt gunfire sounds ahead. Sgt. Kenneth Lockman of Lincoln City relays the message from the Humvee leading the convoy with a call of “Contact right! Eleven o’clock!”

Suddenly, four soldiers spot the “enemy,” a man wearing sunglasses, a white shirt and dark pants and peeking up behind a clump of mesquite firing an automatic weapon. The soldiers return fire. Brass spits from their weapons and clangs off the metal truck bed while the stink of gunpowder fills the air.

It feels real, it sounds real, and it looks real, but the guns are firing blanks.

The truck and the other vehicles in the convoy continue past, not wanting to settle into what could become a “kill zone.” It is a rule they will live by in Iraq. Stick and move. Don’t give the enemy time to respond.

The tactics they are learning have been developed through the pain of others. As the war in Iraq progresses, tactics are reviewed and updated and passed down to those on the way. Even during their “down time,” the training continues.

1400 hours

Farther along the convoy course, the soldiers of 1st Platoon spot what they suspect is the simulated improvised explosive device they were told to locate on the course. It turns out to be a discarded metal cylinder from some other exercise. The soldiers don’t get credit for spotting it, but the practice is useful.

Other scenarios are played out including stalled cars being found on the roadside and how to approach a road block. The unit takes varying approaches in seeking out the enemy and responding to ambush attempts, but time is always critical.

News - StatesmanJournal.com

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